Sunday, June 12, 2022

Friday, March 24, 2017

Two Big Questions Christians Face When Considering Adoption Disruption

An unexpected blessing that came out of one of  the toughest decisions we have ever had to make, that of disrupting an adoption, is the many wonderful people I have the opportunity to connect with via email and phone calls. I thrive of helping others who are in situations that they feel are hopeless. That is probably due in part to the intense relief and gratitude we felt when others have been there for us over the years.

 Two questions come up time and again when I am talking with people who are considering disruption. The questions are ones that I wrestled with at one time or another over the years B was in our home and when we were trying to decide if we really had dissolved all our options in seeking help for our family.

The first question is, "My husband is not ready to take this step, but I feel like I am drowning," or if I am speaking with the father, I usually hear, "My wife says I have to choose between her and the child."

My answer to this question is to explain why a child targets his/her primary caregiver, which is usually mom. Mothers are the nurturer's, they are the ones who hug and kiss the scraped knee's and stubbed toes. She is the one children go to when they need extra love and support. Naturally as a mother, when a new child comes into your home, you want to do all you can to bring healing and happiness to this hurting child. But many times, the child has already learned that the world is an unsafe place. He has learned to hurt others before they can hurt him, especially in regard to adults. The harder mom tries to get close to the hurting child in her care, the harder he is going to push against her. For various reasons, dad  doesn't often receive this same treatment. For one the child typically doesn't spend as much time with dad, thus the threat of a relationship building is not as great. Second the child knows part of keeping mom at bay is getting between her and dad so if he is mean to mom and but is a sweet charmer when dad is around, he will cause conflict between them.

The second question I hear is, "Is it right for Christians to disrupt an adoption? The Bible tells us if we trust in God, he will supply all our needs. Does the fact that I am struggling so badly indicate that I don't have enough trust?" I wrestled with this question for a long time. As Christians we are brought up on the concept that God is all we need, making us feel like their is something wrong with us spiritually when we come up against a block wall. When that wall is being unable to build a relationship with a child, you feel really helpless and like the worst kind of person. When I brought the verse from Philippians 4:19 into the equation, Dean told me that perhaps finding a new family for a child is God's way of supplying our need's. God doesn't always answer prayer the way we think or even wish he would, sometimes he allows us to go through things that feel so twisted and complex that there seems to be no way out, so he can reveal his awesome power. I am in no way suggesting that disruption is something that should be done lightly but there are times when a fresh start is the best gift you can give a struggling child. 

We were told that sometimes a child who is not doing well in a particular family, feels he is unable to move beyond the pain he has brought upon his family. In such instances, a fresh start may be all he needs to succeed. 

 Another reason many family's are led to disrupt is because the child is abusing younger siblings. Moving a child to a new family where he is the youngest child, thus not faced with the opportunity to re-offend, may be what he needs to begin healing. 

Sometimes one or both parents are ageing or in ill health. A child who has RAD/attachment issues will not feel safe with someone whom he knows is not strong enough physically to keep him safe from himself. Many of these children, if they were able to reach deep enough inside and were willing to acknowledge it, would admit they are scared of themselves. They are longing for someone "strong enough" physically and emotionally to stand up to them and keep them safe.

Sometimes a parent will remind a child of their abuser, through no fault of the parent. Body language, tone of voice, hair color....many things can remind a child of the person who once hurt them and while they know this is a different person, they are still triggered and unable to heal. In such situations finding the child another family, a family where he is not daily triggered may be all it takes for him to move on in life.

Finances play a large part in the equation of  parenting children with attachment disorders. This is no run of the mill issue that will resolve itself. It requires years of therapy, inpatient treatment, psychiatric medication and typically, therapy for the rest of the family who is on the receiving end of the child's pain and abuse. Finding affordable care along with knowledgeable staff who can invest the time and emotional energy required to help these children heal is tough. Many family's simply can't afford it.

These are just a sample of the many things parents and their hurting child are up against. As parents, we are charged with keeping our children safe both emotionally and physically.Sometimes that protecting involves finding the child a new home, a home where he has the opportunity to succeed.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tough Emotional Knots

We were invited away for lunch yesterday and on Saturday evening I casually mentioned to Dean that I need to text his sister to see if we are supposed to bring place settings. 

  A short while later Joseph's began giggling hysterically, a sure sign that something is wrong. I asked him if he has big feelings but  he denied that he does, so I told him to sit on a chair and tap. Tapping gets the two sides of the brain to work together and sometimes the child can then figure out what is bothering him. Joseph wasn't impressed because he honestly had no idea what he was feeling.

I asked him to tell me some of the feelings he has sometimes. He started with worried, which supported my hunch about what was bugging him. With my help he was also able to list mad, sad, scared and happy.

I asked Joseph if there is something that is worrying him. He said there isn't so I asked him to tell me about some things that do worry him. He immediately said, "When we go away and there are lot's of people."

"Can you tell me some places where there are lot's of people?" I asked. He said, "When the whole family gets together." Meaning mine and Dean's brothers and sisters.

"Did I say anything about any of them recently?" I asked and he thought for a bit before shrugging his shoulders.

"I said something about them when we were eating," I said. "Do you know what I said?" He shook his head but then he said, "They are probably coming here." I assured him that they aren't and his face brightened. Let me clarify that there isn't anything about our extended family's that give him big feelings, it is groups of people that unnerve him. Even going to church has been upsetting him lately, it seems being in a crowd drains his brain of it's ability to function.

People with FASD often have a hard time understanding their feelings. They need someone to come alongside them, someone to help sort through their emotions and reactions to situations. Joseph would have gone to bed tonight overwhelmed with big feelings and most likely he would have thrown a tantrum because he didn't understand the anxious feelings he had inside.

Because of their inability to define individual feelings, they are all jumbled into a ball we call "big feelings." Big feelings can be brushed under the carpet but trust me, they will return with a vengeance at a later time. When they return they bring along all kinds of additional feelings that were attracted to the ball of undefinable feelings. Then you have to pick them apart, kind of like un-knotting a string that has multiple knots, if you pull to hard on one knot or big feeling, the whole mess just gets worse. The key is to catch those big feelings and lay them out on the table before they have a chance to grow. The trouble is, who feels like beginning a chat that has to potential to last hours? 

I wrote this post on Saturday evening then left it as a draft, never completing it. After this hair raising day I came back to it and was reminded that there are bright spots in this ongoing challenge called trauma parenting, amazing how quickly I can forget them!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Thanks to everyone who watched and shared the PANS/PANDAS video on yesterdays blog post. I received quite a few questions and thought I would do another post on the topic and give a little more insight into what PANS looks like for Kiana as well as why it is so difficult to find and acquire treatment.

How will I know if my child may have PANS/PANDAS?
Both diagnosis have an acute onset. Overnight the happy child is gone and in it's place is a child who has anxiety, fits of rage, OCD and tics among other things. 

How is PANS/PANDAS treated?
With antibiotics, anti inflammatory's, supplements and IVIG. The trouble is, most long term treatment with antibiotics is not covered by insurance, so doctors who successfully treat this illness do not take insurance. IVIG is a successful treatment but the cost of $5000-$10,000 per 10 pounds of body weight is not something many people can afford. Diet, supplements and life style changes are also incorporated to aid healing.

What is a Flare?
A flare is when you see an onset of new or recurrent symptoms. For instance, Kiana can be doing well and suddenly the rage is back. This rage is slightly different than a "trauma rage," although I can't really explain the difference other than it feels different and it is an angry rage versus an afraid rage. We are still working at getting Kiana back to baseline. She hasn't returned to the happy, healthy child she was over a year ago. When she returns to baseline and remains there for app. a year, she can discontinue treatment, although the disease can and will, return at any time.

Are the symptoms always the same?
No, they constantly change, although for Kiana, rages, verbal tics and intrusive thoughts have always accompanied a flare. Verbal tics are when a child makes constant noise with their mouth, not usually words, just noise. A morning of constant noise is enough to make my ears hurt. Intrusive thoughts are when a child has thoughts they cannot control, most often thoughts of harming themselves or others, which is terrifying for them. There is a huge variety of actions/behaviors that can be classified as tics, including facial grimacing and awkward body movements. The anxiety that usually accompanies this illness can be debilitating. Many children cannot even attend school because of their intense anxiety. Thankfully Kiana has not experienced it to that degree and the school has worked with us when it has been a problem. There can also be a host of physical side effects in addition to the devastating mental ones. PANS/PANDAS is an auto immune illness so one never knows what will be affected.

Will she ever be cured?
There is only speculation at this point as to how a child with this illness will be affected in adulthood. For now once she returns to baseline, if that ever happens, we will continue to treat each new flare as it comes. PANS, which is what Kiana has, is triggered by infections/stress and due to the trauma she has already suffered in her life, she is prone to stress which makes her illness more complex. This also makes it more difficult to get her to baseline as she is constantly faced with things that trigger her PANS.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Faces Of PANDAS And PANS

A fellow PANS/PANDAS mom made the following video to help create awareness of this devastating disease. It is also a tribute to a brave young man who lost his life because of the pain and emotional turmoil he endured. Please watch it and share it, our hope is that by sharing our children's struggle's the medical field will recognize and be willing to provide affordable treatment for these children. 
                 The Faces Of P.A.N.D.A.S. And P.A.N.S.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Empathy - When It Is Hard To Love

Do you know what is so hard about parenting children who's lives would be "so much better" if only they hadn't been adopted? 

Empathy. Being empathetic when a child is intent on proving that you ruined his life when you adopted him, therefore you must pay can be devastating.

When he cannot face the pain of accepting that his birth mom/dad messed up or whatever the case may be, he has to project that anger and frustration somewhere. Guess where? Usually it's mom.

In order for the child to heal from past trauma, he needs someone who can take his pain and his rage and still love him in return. That is hard, really hard.

Saying "I am so sorry you cannot live with your birth parents," while remembering the situation your child was removed from can be difficult. Add in the sacrifices your family made for this child, sacrifices that you made willingly, but the child brushed aside and trampled because he is so full of pain and rage from things done to him by his birth family, and it is doubly hard to be empathetic.

When your heart is torn between sympathy for your child and pain for what the rest of the family has to endure because of his rage, it is tough to keep things in perspective.

It would be so much easier to say, "If that's the way you want it, then have it your way," effectively closing your heart to further pain. But the hurting child wouldn't heal and he is just as much a victim of circumstance as you are, although it can be easy to lose sight of that fact when he is the one unleashing havoc in your home.

As an adoptive parent you will have to choose between empathy and closing your heart. The latter is easier but the former is the only way to healing.

Parenting children with trauma, especially when that trauma causes attachment difficulties, means opening your heart to pain and anguish. 
It means making choices for your child, choices that may make your child turn against you for a season because he cannot see the big picture. 
It means fighting for your child when everyone else wants to give up or punish him for the seemingly atrocious acts he has committed, without looking at the driving factor behind the act. 
It means loving a little wildcat who would sooner die than allow you into his heart because he has learned that adults only want to hurt him.
It means holding your child close after he intentionally destroyed a project you spent weeks completing.
It means choosing love when your heart wants to wither and die from the pain this little person has brought into your life.
It means loving again and again, when you really wanted to throw in the towel the day before yesterday.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

We Found A Therapist!

Our "therapist finding fiasco" may finally be over! I have been calling therapists near and far, searching for an attachment therapist to no avail. No one was willing to work with Kiana and I together, they all did "traditional therapy" where they meet with the child for a portion of the visit then with the parent and child together. Anyone who has a child with attachment or trauma knows that you Never leave your child alone with a therapist. One reason is that therapists are mandated reporters and are required by law to report anything they think signals abuse. The other reason is that these children are prone to lying. If the child has an attachment disorder they will intentionally lie to keep a wall between them and their parent or caregiver.

A good attachment therapist will laugh when you ask if they meet with the child alone. They know that doing so puts not only the parent but the therapist at risk because there is nothing to keep the child from making up stories about their therapist. I am amazed at how many child therapists still insist on meeting with the child alone, don't they understand what is at stake?

Anyway, two weeks ago I called a therapist that friends have given high marks. I left him a message and when he returned my call he was very professional. He told what types of therapy he uses and why. H said he would never see Kiana alone unless both him and I agreed it would be necessary for her healing. But the what really made me happy was when I mentioned that Kiana has PANS and suffers from tics/compulsions and tantrums. He told me he works with a psychiatrist who works with children who have PANS/PANDAS! He said it is nearly impossible to get an appointment with her but they work together so he is sure he could get us in. Best of all, he said if I was willing to make appointments as we go, rather than having a set date/time, he could see Kiana immediately! 

Kiana had her first therapy appointment this week and I was very pleased with how well it went. Kiana talked and the therapist knew what he was talking about. Both the therapist and I came away amazed at what the other knew about trauma. 

We even talked about B! Kiana said she sometimes acts out to see if we will find her another home, which wasn't news to me. We have discussed this umpteen times, but as is typical for children with a history like hers, she didn't believe us when we explained the differences between her needs and B's.

Kiana told the therapist that she really likes horses and he told her that his wife has one. "You may come live with us, then you can ride as much as you want," he offered. I will admit I suddenly had serious doubts that he knew what he was talking about, but I shouldn't have worried. Kiana looked at him and said, "I don't want to!" He asked why not and she said, "I don't know you." He agreed and said, "So are you saying you wouldn't feel safe living with me? Do you feel safe at home with mom and dad?" She nodded her head and he said, "I don't know B but I am guessing he didn't feel safe at home. He probably would have wanted to come live with me. That is the difference between the two of you." I saw the light bulb go on, so I knew Kiana was taking in what he said. That is exactly the kind of therapist we were looking for, someone who can reiterate what we tell Kiana, someone who can help her see that we really do love her.

Even though the appointment went better than I even dared hope, I came away exhausted. I had forgotten how hard attachment therapy is! Please pray for Kiana as she continues therapy, we got a glimpse of how bringing up all this junk will affect her and we covet your prayers.